Scientist Spotlight: Jesse Cortez

Welcome to Enable Biosciences’ Scientist Spotlight. A semi-regular blog post highlighting one of our scientists working to bring Enable’s technology to fruition.

Jesse Headshot for Spotlight.jpg

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi! My name is Jesse Cortez, and I am a lead scientist here at Enable Biosciences. I got my start in science working on carbon nanotubes at Rice University, earned my PhD doing synthetic organic chemistry at UC Berkeley, and most recently spent some time doing a post doctoral fellowship at UCSF. I spent most of my academic career working on becoming a university professor, but then decided to make the jump to work here at Enable. I felt that this small biotech startup was well positioned to make a big difference in the world and I wanted to be a part of that.

Besides my interest in science, I spend my spare time doing local theater! I’ve been singing and dancing since I was very young, and love performing in various musicals around the Bay Area. As recently as 2013 I won the “Best Showtune Cabaret Singer” at a local piano bar (Martuni’s) and have been doing theater ever since. You can see pictures and find out more at my own website!

How did you find Enable?

I actually first found out about Enable Biosciences on Facebook. I saw Peter Robinson (co-founder of Enable) write a post about the new company and that he was looking to hire someone. This came at a time when I was looking for what my job would be after I finished my post-doctoral work.  I attended UC Berkeley around the same time as Peter, and so it was really easy to message him and find out more about the position. After hearing about the amazing technology that Enable Biosciences was working on, I applied for the position and I became the first scientist hired at the company about 2 years ago!

What are you working on at Enable?

I started out doing a lot of the science work that went into validating our ADAP assay

for Type 1 Diabetes and HIV. Now that we have published that work, as a company we want to make sure that our technology can be scaled up to run many samples in one day. Therefore, I’m currently working on being able to run our tests effectively on an automated liquid handling system. I helped write and troubleshoot the programming of our robot which allow us to scale up from the benchtop to a level where we can screen many more people in a day. My next projects involve reducing the time that it takes to run our assay, as well as finding ways to fully barcode our process so that our reagents, samples, and data can be tracked easily. This will be very important in our goal of bringing our assay to market and run an efficient clinical lab. Definitely not what I did my PhD work in, but it has been really fun to learn new skills!

Who is your favorite scientist?

I could give you a legitimate answer like Neil Degrasse Tyson or Arthur C. Cope/Rainer Ludwig Claisen (who discovered the Cope/Claisen sigmatropic rearrangement - my favorite organic reaction), but I think I’ll have to answer Bunson and Beeker from the Muppets!